There are things which have been taken from the earth. Species extinct, clean waters defiled, shorelines eroded, ice caps melted. These things may never return. Still, I can wake up in the morning and see the sun coming up, though always it is the earth which has been moving. There is what is gone, what has remained, and what will likely be destroyed at some time.
In 2012, at the end of October, flood water entered my house during a storm. This shattered a certain sense of security I had been accustomed to. I had lived my life without fear of water gushing in, of cars floating and residual mud soaking my belongings. Yet, this is a time in my memory where I snuggled two small children against me. They slept close to me the first night, in a twin bed at the home of relatives, as the water came in and lifted the floor boards in the living room. They giggled as we wandered Park Slope for a few days, before we could go home. We picked up leaves and stones for our “nature box”. We went out for donuts and spoke to strangers about our displacement. We returned home, to clean and dry things and figure out what to do next. I would trade anything to return to those days, because Susanna was here and had not died yet.
About a week before Superstorm Sandy, I dreamt of a grey cloud which turned into a white tiger in the sky. This tiger said to me, “Don’t worry, help is on the way”. In retrospect, the tiger did not manifest the way I wanted it to. I wanted it to be an exclusively auspicious omen, not one involving a natural disaster. Yet, help did come eventually. No one was able to stop the flood from entering, but I was never alone and was frequently offered kindness. Strangers knocked on the door to bring us things, for months to come. Help was on the way and help had always been there.
If I have learned one thing during the past four and a half years, it is that having bad things happen does not make me different from other people. It makes me the same. We either lose everyone or leave everyone, life here is temporary and loss hurts. I am no longer free to ignore this, nor do I want to. I will never understand how someone so wonderful, genuine and selfless can die and not be here anymore. I have lost someone whose presence was immeasurable. But there is a lot that cannot be taken by misfortune. Love and the memories that go with it, those cannot be. I carry Susanna with me, this I know.